From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has dismissed a suit by a former presidential candidate of Hope Democratic Party (HDP), Chief Ambrose Albert Owuru, against the election of President Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 presidential election.
The suit seeking the outright sack of President Buhari was thrown out by Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo on three major grounds.
Parts of the three grounds are that the suit constituted a gross abuse of court process, statute barred and was also an affront to the Supremacy of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Besides, Justice Ekwo held that the suit was baseless, frivolous, irritating and vexatious in its entirety.
Owuru had in the suit applied for an order of the court to declare the presidential seat vacant and swear him in as the authentic winner of that election.
Apart from President Buhari as the first defendant, others in the suit with reference number FHC/ABJ/CS/480/2021 are the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as first, second and third defendants respectfully.
Owuru had sued President Buhari, praying the court for an order to declare the presidency seat vacant on the ground that Buhari was not the winner of the February 16, 2019, presidential election.
The British-trained constitutional lawyer who was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1982, is asking the court to declare Buhari as illegally occupying the presidential seat.
The plaintiff, who contested the 2019 presidential election had asked the court to declare him as the authentic winner of the poll and another order of the court directing his immediate inauguration to take over from Buhari.
In the suit he instituted on June 16, 2021, Owuru had claimed that INEC had no constitutional power to have shifted the Constitutionally fixed February 16, 2019, to February 23 adding that Buhari being a product of unlawful election of February 23 cannot lawfully govern the country.
The main ground of his case was that since his suit against Buhari at the Supreme Court in 2019 was inconclusive due to errors on the adjourned date, he should be declared the winner of the February 16 Presidential election.
He sought a declaration by the Federal High Court that he was entitled to serve out a tenure of 4 years after his formal inauguration.
Among other reliefs, the ex-presidential candidate prayed that Buhari is removed from office with immediate effect and also to be ordered to refund all salaries allowances and emoluments he has so far collected while being unlawfully in office as President.
Owuru had pleaded with the court to give an order that salaries, allowances and emoluments be paid to him from May 29. 2019 when he ought to have been sworn in to date.
The plaintiff had further applied for an order of perpetual injunction restraining Buhari, AGF and INEC from further organising and conducting any presidential election in 2023 so as to enable him to complete his four-year term when inaugurated.
However, in his judgment, Justice Ekwo faulted the ways and manners Owuru coined his originating summons adding that it took a time before he could make sense out of the suit.
Justice Ekwo the judge agreed with Buhari and AGF in their separate preliminary objections against the suit that it was instituted outside the 14 days stipulated by section 285 of the 1999 Constitution.
The Judge held that while the cause of action arose on February 23, 2019, the plaintiff filed his suit on June 18, 2021, a clear period of three years instead of 14 days allowed by law.
” I have carefully studied the four questions formulated by the plaintiff for determination. Unfortunately, section 285 of the 1999 Constitution cannot be of any help to him. The section has knocked off the foundation of the plaintiff’s suit and has become statute-barred.”
Besides, Justice Ekwo said that the claims of Owuru that INEC has no power to shift the election date have no force of law in any way.
The Judge on another point held that the request of Owuru to the Federal High Court to review the decision of the Supreme Court in his petition against Buhari is despicable adding that it is an aberration for a high court to review the decision of the Apex Court in the country.
Justice Ekwo held that it was a reckless request from the plaintiff that the court should query the Supremacy of the Supreme Court and declined jurisdiction to entertain the invitation of the plaintiff.
The Judge also held that the request by the plaintiff to be declared President on account of the postponement of the presidential election from February 16 to 23 of 2019 has no force of law to back up the request.
In all, Justice Ekwo held that the suit of Owuru was frivolous, baseless, unwarranted, irritating and meaningless and subsequently dismissed it.